The increasing pressure to protect the environment led to the adoption of Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (“the Directive”) in the European Union more than two years ago. Although individual Member States were required to transpose the content of the Directive into their national laws by 3 July 2021 at the latest, the Czech Parliament has not yet passed the relevant legislative changes.¹
The Czech Republic will fulfill its obligation to implement this Directive into Czech law, in particular by adopting a law on the reduction of the impact of plastic products on the environment (hereinafter as the “Single-Use Plastics Law“) and amendments to other laws, such as Act no. 477/2001 of Coll., on packaging. According to current information from the Ministry of the Environment, it is not very realistic that the Chamber of Deputies would be able to discuss the single-use plastics bill by the end of its parliamentary term. The new government will have to present the single-use plastics bill again after the elections, and it will have to go through the entire legislative process. It is not expected to be finally adopted until several months after the elections.
A complete and unconditional ban will apply to the use of so-called oxo-degradable plastics. Contrary to regular plastics, these plastics include additives that promote faster fragmentation into particles and later into microplastics. For example, garbage bags, plastic shopping bags and various types of foils are usually made of oxo-degradable plastics.
The ban will apply in particular to certain regular single-use plastic products – such as plastic straws, cutlery, plates, food containers or cotton swabs.²
However, the ban will apply to food containers only if they are made of expanded polystyrene and meet the characteristics of single-use products.³ These are typically single-use containers intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away. The ban will also apply to beverage containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene, including their caps and lids.
Force of the ban on the use of single-use plastics
The single-use plastics bill prohibits both to place the listed products on the market and to make these products available on the market.4 Placing on the market typically means the sale of the given plastic products by the supplier (or manufacturer) of these products to shops, restaurants or other dining establishments. Based on the Directive, it has been prohibited to place specific products on the market since 3 July 2021.
However, since there is no relevant law in the Czech Republic, it is not possible to sanction entrepreneurs in any way for their non-compliance with the Directive and the prohibition stipulated in the Directive. Regardless of the prohibition date stipulated in the Directive, it is still allowed to place these products on the market in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, the Ministry of the Environment assumes that the Single-Use Plastics Law and the ban on placing these products on the market will come into force immediately after its adoption.
The single-use plastics bill also allowed for the so-called “stock sell-out deadline.” This deadline was to give entrepreneurs, who stocked up on single-use plastic products, enough time to “sell out” their entire stock. This means that the products, which were or will be placed on the market before the ban comes into force, can be distributed, i.e. “made available on the market” according to the Single-Use Plastics Law,5 without any sanction until 30 June 2022. Based on the information from the Ministry of the Environment, this should be the final deadline, which means that it should not be extended based on the duration of the legislative process. Nevertheless, the new government may change this deadline.
In the case that the stock sell-out deadline does not change, the entrepreneurs, who stocked up e.g. on food containers made of expanded polystyrene, should be able to use these containers for take-away food even after the new Single-Use Plastics Law comes into force. However, they will have to stop selling food in these containers by the end of June 2022 at the latest (i.e.by the expiry of the stock sell-out deadline), even if they still have these containers in stock. In the case that the entrepreneurs continue to use these containers after the above-mentioned date, they will commit an offense punishable with a sanction of up to CZK 5,000,000.
Even though the law prohibiting certain plastic products has not yet been adopted in the Czech Republic, it is very much certain that it will be adopted because it is the Czech Republic’s obligation arising from its membership in the European Union.
Until the Single-Use Plastics Law is adopted, the ban stipulated in the Directive is not enforceable in the Czech Republic. However, entrepreneurs must understand that this ban will be in effect in the future. The best solution, which is also mentioned by the European legislator in the Directive, is to switch to products made of sustainable alternative materials.
We trust that this article has provided you with useful information, and we are ready to help you with any situation you may be in.
Your LTA team
- Situation as of 25 August 2021.
- A complete list of products, to which the ban applies, is provided in Part A of the Annex to the single-use plastics bill (see Parliamentary Document 1155/0).
- Annex to Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, Part A.
- The Single-Use Plastics Law defines the placing on the market as follows: “… the first supply of a selected plastic product to the Czech Republic for the distribution, consumption, use or import of the selected plastic product in the course of a commercial activity, whether in return for payment or free of charge.”
- The Single-Use Plastics Law define making available as follows: “… any supply of a selected plastic product to the Czech Republic for distribution, consumption or use, whether in return for payment or free of charge, after its placing on the market.”